The articles and protests in response to Temple’s recent athletic cuts fall short in one area: Most of them lack a call for action from the NCAA. If the NCAA is to live up to both its legal mission statement and ethical obligation to students, then it should not allow these cuts to happen.
Article 1.3.1 of the NCAA Division I Manual for 2013-14 states that the NCAA exists to promote collegiate athletics in order to “retain a clear line of demarcation between intercollegiate athletics and professional sports,” due to the fact that “intercollegiate athletics [are] an integral part of the educational program, and the athlete [is] an integral part of the student body.”
This “Fundamental Policy” rests on the intentionally vague lawyer-phrase “clear line of demarcation.” With these cuts, the NCAA seems to be allowing Temple to cross that line.
While professional sports feature sizable player salaries, gargantuan TV contracts and huge corporate sponsorships, college sports have traditionally taken a different approach to sports than the professionals do, one that focuses on amateurism. Old-fashioned college sports fans will claim that because these amateurs don’t make a profit, they must love the game more.
Regardless of what fans want, money has become a driving factor in college athletics. Big-money sports like football and basketball have turned their college equivalents into the competitive minor leagues they always lacked, and colleges don’t seem to mind.
Athletic Director Kevin Clark told the Inquirer in August that “football and basketball drive the bus. They generate the revenue, so we have to invest in those programs.” The same article concludes with a quote from President Theobald on a possibly solvent future for Temple athletics. “It’s really going to depend on football,” he said, admitting that “football runs the show in athletics, financially.” Earlier in the piece, Theobald excuses the fact that football loses more than $7 million a year. Since an “average NCAA athletic program loses almost $8 million a year,” football’s losses are “right in line,” Theobald argued.
The seven sports Temple cut may have had success, but they were unable to produce revenue. Some of the teams were also in need of new or updated facilities, such as a boathouse for the crew and rowing teams, and this made the teams even less attractive for Temple’s future plans.
Temple’s bowing down to the dollar seems to be crossing that line which the NCAA swears to protect. Professional sports let money control them, too. After this semester is over, there will now be seven fewer opportunities to “fight, fight, fight for the cherry and the white.”
Though the administration will describe the cuts as an unfortunate but necessary financial move, they know not the moral damage they have done.
Athletes should not have to fear the demise of their sport if it does not have ample opportunities to sell Mountain Dew or appear on ESPN. If college sports are “an integral part of the educational program and the athlete [is] an integral part of the student body,” as the NCAA says, then Temple’s integral parts are now smaller in size and strength. If the NCAA exists to facilitate opportunity for athletes, then it should not allow opportunities to disappear. If American college students are supposed to count on the NCAA to defend their classmates’ “integral” sports, then it is in the NCAA’s best interest not to let them down.
Joe Brandt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.